Having won the Durand Cup two years into joining the Indian football circuit, Gokulam FC have shown that they are here to not just participate, but also make a statement. And owner VC Praveen has said that the ecosystem should be conducive for all the clubs to thrive as money cannot be the only factor to lift the standard of the game in the country.

In an interview with IANS, Praveen said that money is no doubt a factor, but not the only one as he stressed on building a football-friendly environment.

“The last time a club from Kerala won the trophy was 22 years ago. We were able to achieve this because of the hard work of the players and coaching staff. I am happy that the project has started to bear fruit within two years of its formation,” he said.

The team that lifted the Durand had nine Kerala players and Praveen is very proud that players from their own backyard are making their presence felt.

“We were able to promote four players from our reserve team to the main squad. And we may include more players before I-League. We should be able to bring back the glorious days of Kerala football and I think we have already made a big leap,” he said.

Talking about what lies ahead for club football in wake of uncertainty over different leagues, Praveen said no one can predict the future.

“There should be more triumphs like that of Aizawl FC in Indian football rather than having a closed league where only wealthy and powerful clubs can play,” said Praveen.

The owner said that his aim is to win trophies and bring back the glory of Kerala football. “I-League has great opportunities as the quality is high. Only if you play in a good league then you would be able to become a better club. If you market I-League at par with the ISL then I think the tournament will be able to sustain by itself. If you compare the number of spectators in both the leagues, you can see it is almost equal. So there is no reason to abandon a well-performing league because there is another league,” he pointed.

He also said that there was no reason to change the policy with regards to foreign players playing in the XI. “I think the number of foreigners at present is apt for both leagues. Foreigners bring more experience to the squad. Indian players can also learn a lot playing along with them,” he said.

On the targets he has set for Gokulam FC, Praveen said: “It is the most followed sport in the state but there are limited opportunities to youngsters to display their skills in a professional set up. I understood that only with a club with roots in Kerala can develop the game. There is a lot of local talent available. We can provide them professional experience. I believe we have now created an ecosystem for the players to develop.”